Dresses for Haiti

By Betty Diemer

The Little Dresses for Haiti project, to help clothe the girls in Haiti, began in February of 2010. I was given the idea of making little dresses from pillowcases by my friend Dorothy Ridley. She had seen this idea on a show called Sewing With Nancy. Nancy’s goal was to aid the girls is Africa but Dorothy thought the dresses project would work well for the girls in Haiti. I returned home to Ohio and did some research into how one would make a dress from a pillowcase and was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity and flexibility of the project. They can be made from fabric as well as from pillowcases.

I made a few and decided to see if any of the ladies at Grace Episcopal Church in Mansfield, Ohio (where I am a member) would like to join me. Rev. Mark Robinson Canon for Missions for the Diocese of Ohio, assured me that the Episcopal Church had an exceptionally good network of people in Haiti and I decided to use the Episcopal Church connections to ship the dresses. Rev. Robinson asked me to be the contact person and open this project to the whole diocese. I was happy to do this. Church Life! published a two-page article in the summer of 2010 which spread the word throughout the diocese.

Our local newspaper, The Mansfield News Journal, ran an article and I began getting people from many of the churches, quilting groups, senior centers, and individuals calling to get instructions for making the dresses. An amazing thing happened! People, who had read the article, told relatives and friends out of town and out of state! Our church website, posted the instructions and pictures of dresses and the mission expanded to include people sewing in the following states: Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Nebraska, California, Montana, Wyoming, and New Hampshire. There is even someone sewing in Canada and Scotland! (21 states out of 50! Maybe we will include the rest soon?)

We also collected and sent gently used or new shorts and shirts for the boys as well as underwear for both boys and girls.